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10 Tips for Developing a Remote Workforce Management Program

At a recent insideMOBILITY® event in Austin, mobility professionals were eager to discuss the challenges of monitoring and managing a remote workforce. These mobility leaders were from organizations of different sizes and industries, and they described how their companies are addressing many work-from-home and work-from-anywhere requirements and requests. Several reported that their companies seem hesitant to develop comprehensive policies for remote workforce management for a variety of reasons that include not wanting to set a policy precedent, concerns over continuing volatile market conditions and differing degrees of agreement between stakeholders. Ultimately, with remote work becoming such a significant topic among workforce management challenges, it became apparent that discussions around present – and future – planning have become key to organizational preparedness around compliance, employee equity, and business efficiency.  

The attendees were eager to learn how their peers were navigating these new and turbulent remote workforce waters. After all, given mobility’s experience in supporting mobile employees worldwide, these teams are in an ideal position to help craft their organization’s detailed remote workforce management policies.  

In this blog, we’ll recap the highlights from the insideMOBILITY session as we review remote work arrangements in today’s workplace and the unique perspective mobility brings to this issue. We’ll close by describing 10 primary decision areas organizations should consider within their remote workforce management policies.

Remote work is here to stay

The pandemic proved to be a turning point for many employment policies and practices, and observers predict that remote work arrangements will be a significant part of our world from now on. The degree will vary by organization, and each will identify the fundamental remote work priorities that meet their needs.  

Some organizations will require a full return to the office. Many more will implement remote work accommodations, ranging from working remotely full time to partial or hybrid remote work models in which there’s an expectation to work in a designated office space for a minimum number of days per week.  

As companies make those decisions and define their policies, they should be guided by the lessons learned during the pandemic. Specifically, they’ll need to balance the benefits of remote work with the potential for operational disruption and compliance violations.  

Observations from mobility professionals regarding remote work 

The compliance aspect of remote work considerations was amplified during the Austin insideMOBILITY session, as mobility professionals pointed out that: 

Organizations should address work-from-home and work-from-anywhere policies separately given the extensive compliance risks with the latter 

Many companies haven’t adopted formal remote work policies due to uncertainties around compliance matters, eligibility criteria, process establishment (including approvals and denials) and stakeholder input – just to name a few 

Approvals for remote work arrangements often bypass mobility, putting the company at risk for compliance violations 

Overall, the major area of concern regarding remote work arrangements related to tax compliance  

Stakeholders working together to establish remote workforce management policies 

As we’ve recently discussed, mobility teams are adept at maintaining mobile employee compliance in areas like social security programs, totalization agreements, visa and immigration, taxation, health insurance and data security. These teams have a long history of developing relocation packages and policies that ensure compliance in these areas. They also support their mobile employees in ways that reflect their organization’s workforce, processes, priorities, unique risks, competitive environment and culture. 

Mobility experts stepped up to advise their internal teams on these matters in 2020 – initially in support of mobile employees around the globe who were confronting challenging pandemic lockdown environments.   

However, as non-mobile employees started working remotely, mobility teams were aware of potential pitfalls with these arrangements, especially when employees wanted to work from locations in other states, regions and countries that were far removed from their homes. 

Now that remote work has become a widely accepted workplace option, it’s logical and prudent that these same mobility professionals work side by side with their tax, legal, finance, benefits, technology and compensation partners, as well as other internal teams. Together, they can develop remote workforce management policies that meet the needs of all internal stakeholders, support compliance protocols, create a consistent and equitable environment, align with an organization’s culture and goals and sustain the remote workforce.  

10 considerations guiding remote workforce management policies 

Organizations should consider these 10 key questions related to compliance and other institutional factors as they craft remote workforce management programs and policies: 

  1. Eligible positionsWhat positions should be eligible for remote work? Companies should try to define this based on job categories and responsibilities, not on an individual basis, which can raise issues of fairness and equity.  
  2. FlexibilityWill employees be allowed to spend more time in the office than the remote work arrangement calls for? For example, can an employee working in a position that’s authorized to be fully remote choose to spend three days a week in the office? This will depend on factors like meeting schedules, workspace availability and the potential for disruption of routines and support schedules. Again, to ensure an equitable workplace, this issue should be addressed with policies rather than on a case-by-case basis.   
  3. Geographic limitsHow should a company define “allowable” remote locations? Employees might be required to remain within their taxable jurisdiction or in a location where the organization is prepared to comply with local tax requirements. The policy should also reflect visa and immigration work and travel restrictions. 
  4. Work from anywhereShould an employee be allowed to work outside their remote “home?” Does this also apply during their travel for personal time off or a “workcation?” If so, should there be restrictions or limits on duration? This policy, too, should be based in large part on tax and immigration compliance considerations. 
  5. RelocationFor employees who are authorized to work remotely, will the company provide support for employees to relocate to other jurisdictions (states, provinces or countries)? Ultimately, this will vary by company according to their culture, but the need to retain critical talent and budgets play a part in this decision. 
  6. Location trackingWill the company monitor remote workers to ensure they’re complying with remote work policies? An organization’s culture will be the most significant factor guiding these matters. 
  7. Compensation adjustments Should a remote employee’s compensation be adjusted up or down if they make an authorized move to another location that has a significantly different cost of living or level of tax liability for the company? If companies already maintain these kinds of location-based pay differentials, they should consider extending them to voluntary, authorized relocation situations.
  8. Data securityHow will the employees comply with data security protocols when engaging with the organization’s systems and programs? In most cases, companies already have IT policies for remote work while on business travel, for example, or for working from home in certain conditions. Remote workforce IT policies should reflect these same standards. Additionally, these remote employees could be required to take cybersecurity training that reinforces best practices in safe remote access. Companies should also consider providing systems (e.g., VPN) and resources to enable safe remote access and then provide technical support in this area.
  9. Diversity, equity and inclusion considerationsHow will the remote work policy be designed and implemented to ensure equal applicability to all eligible employees regardless of personal identity classification? It’s best when all groups can weigh in on remote workforce management policies and to raise concerns if disparities become evident.   
  10. Organizational cultureHow will the company’s remote workforce management policy reinforce its culture and be leveraged for recruiting practices? Management and talent acquisition styles vary across organizations. Those with employees who are accustomed to face-to-face, team-member interaction and close management oversight might want to take a more conservative approach to remote workforce management policies, while others may consider more flexible work arrangements to support the overall employee experience. 

Thanks to the pandemic, discussions around workforce planning and management have changed. Mobility teams are uniquely positioned to contribute to these discussions, particularly when it comes to policy planning. Not only are there components of mobile employee population management that translate easily to remote workforce scenarios, but mobility professionals also have a wealth of experience balancing the need for organizational compliance with providing exceptional employee experiences. Both are critical and both are possible. Providing valuable perspective into remote workforce management policies is one more example of mobility’s value to an organization.   

Contact Graebel if you’d like to have a more in-depth conversation about how to tap into mobility tools and expertise to develop a remote workforce management policy.  

About the Author

Sarah Hornbeck is Manager, Mobility Strategy Services. Sarah joined the Graebel Mobility Strategy team in 2021 where she writes/revises policies, creates benchmarks, assists with RFP/RFI responses, identifies mobility trends, and conducts consulting ad hoc projects. Combining over 20 years of mobility experience predominantly in policy development, with five years in operations, Sarah brings her personal experience of relocating within the U.S. to produce insightful, accurate and articulate policy reviews and recommendations. Sarah earned her bachelor of science degree in psychology from Northwest Missouri State University.

Profile Photo of Sarah Hornbeck